Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Ban the Jet Ski.

After Surfing yesterday at Sennen i have finally cracked. I can hold my anger no longer, I have come to the conclusion that the lifeguards at Sennen beach are on their own planet, not ours. After red flagging the beach all morning due to some good size swell they decide to open a small area for swimmers. I wish for the day when a lifeguard in Sennen would get on a paddleboard and coral the swimmers, talk to them face to face, get to know their customers and earn their money. Instead we had the air raid siren, whistles, quad bike hooter, load hailer, and then to top it off they launched the jet ski. Bearing in mind that no swimmer is out of their reach if they were on a board, these poor tourists were circled in a haze of two stroke fumes for the afternoon with the ski coming in turning fast and heading back out and going between the swimmers. A number of us watched in amazement and not a good word was said by any. The surfers were then subjected to a lifeguard riding in and out of the set waves and up and down the beach. At one point there were also Dolphins out yesterday, I wonder what they think is happening to Sennen. Our lifeguards seem to have lost the plot. If they lose the ski in the swimming area people will get hurt, try taking off the helmets, put a wetsuit on and paddle those rescue boardsor atleast put a wetsuit on and get amongst the tourists in waist depth water, let the people see who you are and build a relationship with surfers and tourists, you may find people more responsive than being coralled by a quarter ton machine that pollutes our beautiful environment. I'm aware you have a duty of care, a responsibility to the people in the water but how many people will continue to come back if they're memory of Sennen is not the sweet smell of coconut oil but petrol, not the sound of kids and families playing but a whining engine. Please Mr Lifeguard, ask yourselve is it really necessary to launch a jet ski or is their a more people friendly way to manage the tourists safety? How many people will become a member the RNLI if that is the all they remember? I subscribed eight years ago to support the RNLI lifeboat crews not to put fuel in a Jet Ski. Apology for the rant, back to my happy place tommorrow.


SurfGSD Learn to surf centres said...

Fair comment, have seen this before in Cornwall. Is this what happens when you get given too much kit?


K38 UK PWC (Jet ski) Rescue Training said...

They are still using two strokes, if they used the VX fourstroke yes it is 40kg heavier but 4 stroke PWC's (jetskis) are the most environmentally small craft available. But that doesn't alter what is more often than not undisciplined throttle happy operating. Had many a good surf ruined but they do do a good job

Russ Pierre said...

I agree, they are definately a great rescue tool. I wish our life guards would be responsible and launch and then wait for a call. Not launch and show off. Jersey lifeguards patrol well out of the zone at about 1 knot, they seem to know how to use them.

Graham said...

Hi Russ
For my sins I was a guard at Sennen for 14 years, during that time we moved from all board and torpedo work to a 11’ 40HP RIB. We were initially accused of racing around and wave jumping and pissing off the surfers at Gwenver and of being the Gwenver guards sandwich delivery service but in our defence we had to figure out how to use the thing, as Penwiths “Intensive” training program consisted of 20 minutes with the Coxn of the St Ives IRB in about 8 inches of water at 40 knots and that was it.! So we had to learn and learn quick and we got pretty damn good too, working with Terry and Co (Sennen Lifeboat) and even Culdrose Sea Kings on lifeboat day but we never ever lost sight of the fact that the moment you left the beach with the boat, unless you were doing something positive you were instantly pervceived as “messing about.” I totally agree about get out there with a board, shepherd people talk to people, prevention is better than cure and there is NO excuse for racing around in the surf for NO reason. Training yes has to be done, MUST be done but make it obvious that is what you are doing. For PR we even asked for and used volunteers from the public (probably some great H&S issue now) because there is one hell of a difference between flipping a fit lifeguard into an IRB and two of you trying to haul in a 16 stone Geordie, in surf, in the wave interval with out being broadsided or chopping the patient with the prop!!
We would have killed for a WaveRunner, we knew then jetskis were the way to go but they were those Kawasaki things, one person roll over in a second.
Have just got back from West Coast of France and I regret to say there is the same mentality there of racing around flying off waves jumping etc trashing the peak…..
It is too easy with machines like these to instantly go from wonder to wanker…. Looks like they have managed it…
Tell JMO. There is the whole professional link through to the RNLI and I am sure they will not countenance behaviour such as that.
Graham Shephard. ex Sennen HeadGuard for far too many years……

Jess said...

I love the life guards, and the beaches. I am a Cornish chick, who also loves to surf.

However - Sennen is not the only place this happens. T'other day, was at Mawgan Porth, a stunning beach a a fab break, being a slight kook, I was sat not out back but trying to have a session further in, and we were constantly bombarded by life guards whizzing around us in circles in a mini life boat thing - like a dinghy. My surf was ruined by the smell of petrol and the constant call of the guards for me to either - get out of the river (which I was well aware took me out back - and I told them this) and to get out of the swimmers area - there were two people in the water. So much for a surf - I was paddling out of one area and into another for the whole session (high tide does explain this a little bit).

Don't get me wrong - I hugely appreciate being guarded - it makes me feel safe, but to be shouted at more than twice and inhaling more fumes than a busy August Saturday on the A30 was not my idea of a great surf.

Best Jess

Darrick Doerner said...

These kind of reports are positive becuase they will and can lead to change. It is up to the leadership and administration that runs lifesaving or groups to address community concerns and public safety, as well as their standard operating procedures.

Perception can be prejudice as well, there are two sides to every story, however a professional Rescue Water Craft (RWC) operator is driving a boat, not just a 'jet ski'. This is a serious lifesaving vessel and should be operated accordingly.

If a training program is not instilled with effective skill sets and a knowledgeable instructor, there will be problems that are obvious to the public.

The goal should be for both the public safety agencies and the the public themselves who operate these unique small boats to take thier behavioral choices seriously.

That is why we have worked diligently in the US to set PWC/RWC training standards that are reliable to real world concerns and they work, but only as long as the operator is disciplined to what they were taught and that the doctrines and standards exist in thier agency and are enforced.

It would be a shame to see the worlds most innovative rescue boat to be labled with disrepsect because an operator was given only sub standard training, for most lifesavers are very passionate about thier work and safety in general.

Shawn Alladio
K38 International

Dave Weight said...

I used to be a professional lifeguard in Cornwall in the 70s.and have done a fair bit of voluntary lifeguarding since. In surfing, codes of practice have emerged, and I recall that students at Falmouth College did a very good poster illustrating these a couple of years ago. I’d like to see a similar exercise carried out for beach lifeguarding. My own observations are:

1. At most beaches where I surf, the bathing areas are unnecessarily small. Sometimes as little as 30 metres wide, even when the swell is low. I think that this is done to allow good visibility from the back of an RNLI 4 x 4, but is causes overcrowding and collisions, and in most instances, it just plain lazy. The old-fashioned higher chair enables better, wider visibility and would facilitate wider bathing areas.
2. When the surf is large , as long as surfers are experienced and have leashes, then surfing out the back beyond the body-boarders (who, without fins jump onto waves), should be tolerated, as long as surfers don’t take their rides close to bathers. In good surfing conditions, having surfers “out the back” is a positive asset as it will be near impossible for bathers to get swept out without being spotted by surfers.
3. The use of loudhailers is often excessive and greatly irritating to visitors. It is nearly always sufficient to simply whistle and point.
4. Training on jet skis should not happen in crowded conditions. In practice, conditions are better managed by lifeguards on rescue boards, and the use of jet skis generally limited to rescues, rather than patrolling.
5. If life-guards use jet skis, they should not mess up the waves for surfers
6. Training on jet skis should be generally at off-peak times and in uncrowded areas.
7. In many areas, the provision and use of jet skis is excessive and the situation can be easily managed from rescue boards. Bournemouth and Poole are such examples. This is a waste of money, and charities especially should be more concerned about carbon emissions and not wasting money.
8. The demarcation of flagged zones is often unclear, especially on beaches which curve in plan. This could be overcome by using pairs of flags (one behind the other) at each end, rather than single at each end.

Perhaps readers might like to vary or add to the above, but I hope that some would like to help establish some codes of practice to help resolve the conflicts described in this discussion.

Terence said...

Hi Russ,

If it's any consolation we suffer the same on the other side of the world. Here in Wellington the craft of choice is an inflatable and it appears to be used without shame or consideration of other beach users. It's noisy, potentially dangerous, and used much more often for joy riding than to save people.

The dilemma is that criticising lifeguards is like criticising firefighters. Owing to all the good work that they actually do, do it's very hard to point out when they are making mistakes. I'd also feel like a bit of a pratt begruding their fun as many are volunteers.

This still doesn't change the fact that they use their crafts recklessly and without justification, at least where I live.

Ken Neth said...

Russ, it’s Mr Lifeguard here: I hope that you’re now back in your happy place and/or planet. Sennen Beach (Penwith, Cornwall, Planet Earth) is an apposite microcosm for how a busy beach should be managed by lifeguards, not locals. Ironically, your rant adds nothing to the widely accepted ‘cons’ of jet skis, but it does demonstrate nicely a genuine and far more serious problem on our beaches: the conceited attitude of some locals. Yes Russ, press the pause button on your reality for a moment and play with the idea that it is your attitude that stinks – far worse than the exhaust fumes of a two stroke (or whatever) jet ski. For starters, you obviously have zero respect for the lifeguards that do work at Sennen. It’s not enough that you are ‘aware’ they have a duty of care to beach users: you must understand that air raid sirens (I think the term is actually ‘fog horns’), whistles, quad bike hooters and jet skis are required and used proactively everyday on the beaches by the guards in discharging that duty. They are also highly trained in using that equipment. Guards do patrol on paddleboards, but given the sheer number of beach users jet skis are frequently vital in people management and responding quickly to incidents in often challenging conditions (notwithstanding that guards are very capable swimmers and paddle-boarders: it’s a job requirement). I admit that it is difficult to reach someone on a personal level, which you suggest is important, when you are driving a jet ski, but their safety is more important than ‘customer’ care. I think all of those people who have ever been rescued by one would agree (we are talking about hundreds). The evidence that jet skis are an extremely important piece of rescue kit is incontrovertible: they save lives. If anyone has ever worked as a beach lifeguard they will understand it is a serious and difficult job when the beaches are busy. If something is missed, people could die. It’s easy to sit on your surfboard, take an isolated incident and form generic criticisms, especially when you have obviously never worked a day on the beach yourself. Why don’t you step up to the plate and work a season on the beach? At least you would then be in a position to exercise a more objective opinion - even the dolphins would agree with that logic. Finally, since when has Sennen been famous for smelling of sweet coconut oil?

Your Dad said...

Russ, I have read this and previous comments that you have posted and come to the conclusion (as many others) that your ignoramce is limitless.
It's all about you Russ. You are little whinging clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devout itself to making you happy. You have inhaled too many jet-ski fumes mate and coddled that redundant organ of yours that resembles a doughnut. Your Dad
P.S. Get off the coconut oil

sennen surfer said...

Russ, it seems that the frequent rants you place on various websites are becoming tiresome. There is no real argument here...you suggest the lifeguards hide behind whistles, airhorns and the like and speak as if you actually know something about lifeguarding. Have you worked as a lifeguard on Sennen beach? If not, may i suggest that do not pass comments on a topic that you quite clearly lack understanding. As for the comments from the old lifeguards - things have changed with time, beaches are busier and jet skis are far safer and more manoeverable (minus the prop) than RIBs.
May i suggest that you openly discuss your issues with the lifeguards as opposed to blogging behind their backs - i'm sure they would be receptive and able to explain their professional actions accordingly. Good luck!

Russ Pierre said...

Thankyou all for your comments, even the annonymous ones, especially from my Dad.

Jill Pierre said...

Hi Russ,

What a can of worms you have opened young man, it looks as though some people are not too happy with your observations. All I can say is thank goodness for freedom of speech, isn't this after all what makes people think about their practice and encourages progression and change?

Some interesting, intelligent and valid comments have been made in this discussion, which have been refreshing to read. There are of course the little whingers and ignorants who have had their egos dented and have chosen to fight back with insults, anonymously of course. It's a shame their mothers didn't teach them to be proud and to speak out about what they believe in, instead of hiding behind fake names.

As for Sennen beach smelling of coconut oil it does, they sell it in the surfshop. I am a little concerned however that your father thinks you have a little redundant organ that resembles a doughnut? Does he not know that you have just fathered a beautiful strong healthy baby boy. Who knows he may even continue with your rants in years to come! As for your doughnut your father never did bath you very much when you were a baby, I wouldn't pay much attention to that comment son.

Love Mother.

SurfGSD Learn to surf centres said...

Russ you have certainly upset several people even members of your family... but have also attracted comments from real water people that use the skis as part of their jobs...

I am not sure if a ban is the answer as they are, if used by TRAINED, MATURE, PROFESSIONAL, individuals a valuable tool for prevention and recovery.

The other issue being the type of skis used should also perhaps be looked at by the RNLI. Which I have sent this blog link to and am awaiting a comment.

I am sure that K38 will be able to help them with training if needed.

Keep on blogging!


Russ Pierre said...

Hi Simon,
Thanks for your feedback. Yes I seemed to have hit a nerve with people who like to remain annonymous. I totally agree that jetskis can be a valuable tool. As for the family comments I find it amusing that someone has actually set up a blog username like 'my Dad' to send me some abuse. Classic. Again thanks to the sensible people in the world that would like to see progress. As for Ken Neth's comments, and I'm sure thats his real name, about my conceited attitude of some locals and my zero respect towards lifeguards I find this simply amusing.

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